In focus Friday - Vaping

29 December 2017

SIG: Documentary


This week Gerry Walden talks us through this candid shot which he submitted for August's round of the bi-monthly competition (link)

Can you give us a little background about the shot?

For a long time I have thought that an image of ‘vaping’ would make a good library shot but I had not had the opportunity to make one. I knew what I wanted but for various reasons had not found it. The day this was shot I had gone into Southampton for a couple of hours to shoot ‘street’. I had taken up position on a seat in the main precinct when purely by chance this gentleman came and sat two seats away from me and he was already vaping. I took three frames in total, hoping I had something worthwhile, before he moved on. I was shooting with a Leica M9 and 24mm Elmarit-M f2.8 lens and I had set the camera on aperture priority at f5.7 and 400iso. To be honest the image was a little disappointing in colour as it did not have the emphasis on the vapour I wanted, so I converted it to black and white in Lightroom and the adjusted the contrast etc. to give this image.

What was your plan for the day?

My plan was simply to go to the town centre and see what fell in front of my lens. I think street photography is like fishing, sometimes you catch something and sometimes you don’t. You have your favourite spots and you can just sit and wait.

What’s your routine just before heading out with your camera?

I check out my kit, made sure that battery in the camera was OK and checked the memory card. I had decided that I wanted to shoot with the 24mm so that was on the camera ready. I then just sat and waited for the bus to collect me from home.

While you’re out what makes you press the shutter release?

It is almost instinct. I have been shooting ‘street’ images for maybe 50 years and now I sometimes find myself shooting without even consciously thinking. If I am asked whether I have any good shots I always reply “I will tell you when I have looked at them”.

Where can we find more of your work?

I am on Flickr (link) but the best place is on my website (link), but this is a new website for me so I am still populating it with images.

What’s the best purchase you’ve made for less than £100?

My work has been strongly influenced of late by the book ‘Light, Gesture and Color’ by Jay Maisel (link). This book taught me to see more clearly, and I would strongly recommend it to everybody.

What do you think photographers don’t do but should?

Learn to see rather than just looking.


Who inspires you?

I am constantly looking at the work of other photographers and every day I find new inspiration. Of course the work of the great street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and Robert Frank are always in my subconscious but there is so much inspiration on YouTube and bookshelves that I am always in awe. The thing I would say is that, what ever genre of photography you work in, you must always look at photographs, day in and day out. Spend time at it, analyse, dissect and then use the lessons. 

Which camera has been your all time favourite and why?

It may sound trite but the reality is that I now love my Leica M240. The colour palette of the sensor is amazing and it is such a joy to use. This, coupled with the superb Leica and Zeiss lenses, gives my the best quality of image I have ever had.


And finally, what essential piece of advice would give your novice self?

Don’t get bogged down in equipment. I have been there and spent a small fortune on lenses and I now only own three lenses and two bodies. My longest lens is 50mm.

Thanks, Gerry. Great advice.